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OWNERSHIP OF THE GIFT
A humanitarian group in Africa, noticing the filthy water, sewage, and disease, built clean water and sewage system for a village. Months later, they visited the village, but it was back to square one with filthy water, sewage and disease. [from Pickthebrain.com]
The chief told the humanitarian workers: "And what did you expect? These people had been many years without clean water. Then you gave it to them for free in abundance. They took all they could use and more. The people did not work for those water stations. They do not own them, and they could not be persuaded to maintain them."
The humanitarians were silent. The chief had spoken truth. The great gift alone had not been enough and the reasons could be clearly observed. Perhaps it is human nature to abuse a gift. The humanitarians returned to their camp and thought long and hard about how they could help the villagers.
The next day the humanitarians returned, determined to rebuild the water and sanitation systems with the following conditions.
1. The villagers would have to pay for water and sanitation. Not more than they could afford, but there would be no gift giving this time.
2. A group of villagers would work with the contractors to build the system and would be taught how to repair every aspect of it. These villagers would in turn train others so the system would never fall into disrepair.
With these new conditions in place, the water and sanitation systems were restored. This time the people had respect for the systems because they owned them. This time they were able to repair the system when it broke down. To this day the villagers have plenty of clean water and live free of filth and disease.
Story: A Korean Pastor told me this story some years ago, when he came to Switzerland.
In the 4th century AD in Korea a man had two sons. The elder rose to become Chief Justice in the land and the younger became an infamous bandit.
The elder brother loved his younger brother but was unable to persuade him to change his ways.
Eventually the younger son was caught and brought before his brother, the Chief Justice. Everyone in the courtroom thought the younger brother would get off because it was well known that the Chief Justice loved his brother
But at then end of the trial, the Chief Justice sentenced his brother to death.
On the day of the execution, the elder brother came to the prison and said to his brother ďLetís swap placesĒ. The younger brother agreed thinking that once they realised that it was the elder brother, the execution would not go forward.
On he went up on the hill to watch proceedings. His brother was brought out at dawn and to his horror executed.
Filled with remorse, he ran down the hill and told the guard his name and that he was the criminal who should be executed. The guards said to him.
ďThere is no sentence outstanding on anyone with that nameĒ
In the same way, Christ has died for our sins so there is no sentence outstanding. All we have to do is to accept his death in our place.
Sermon Central Staff
TAKE MY HAND
The story is told of a man and his boy who was with him, when a little fellow, in Scotland, and for the first time he possessed what in that country is known as a top-coat. They were walking out one cold day, and the way was slippery. The little fellow's hands were deep down in his pockets. His father said to him: "My son, you had better let me take your hand," but he said you never could persuade a boy with a new top-coat to take his hands from his pockets.
They reached a slippery place and the boy had a hard fall. Then his pride began to depart and he said: "I will take your hand." and he reached up and clasped his father's hand the best he could. When a second slippery place was reached, the clasp was broken and the second fall was harder than the first.
Then all his pride was gone, and raising his little hand he said: "You may take it now," and his father said, "I clasped it roundabout with my great hand and we continued our walk; and when we reached the slippery places," said he, "the little feet would start to go and I would hold him up."
This is a picture for the Christian. I am saved not so much because I have hold of God as because God has hold of me, and He not only gives me shoes with which I may walk and which never wear out, but Christ holds my hand in His and I shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck me out of His hand.
(J. Wilbur Chapman, Heartwarming Illustrations, accessed: QuickVerse. From a sermon by Chris Surber, The Holy One Among Us, 7/30/2010)
THE CROSS AT GROUND ZERO
Iím an excavation laborer, and a member of union local 731. Pick-and-shovel work is my trade. I live in New Jersey, but Iím a New York City native, Brooklyn born and bred. After the Towers collapsed, my city was hurting. When I heard they needed guys like me for search-and-rescue work at Ground Zero, I couldnít get there fast enough.
Iíd seen the news coverage, but that didnít prepare me for the reality. Down there it was like hell on earth. Fires burned out of control. Destroyed vehicles littered the streets. Everything was blanketed with dust; the air was filled with a choking stench. I soaked a bandanna with water before wrapping it around my head to cover my nose and mouth. I went to work wondering if Iíd be able to get through this.
Six firefighters and I entered World Trade Center building six, which had been flattened by Tower One. We took a smoke-filled stairway down into the garage levels, searching for survivors. There were no cries for help, no signs of life. We spray-painted orange Xs to indicate where weíd searched and to help us find our way back.
After 12 hours of searching, weíd recovered three bodies. By then I was exhausted, but I couldnít quit. ďThink Iíll take a look over there,Ē I told the firemen, motioning toward the remains of the lobby atrium.
Picking my way through the massive piles of debris, I peered into what had become a sort of grotto. Illuminated by the pale light of dawn were shapes . . . crosses. What? How did these get here? The largest was about 20 feet high. It must have weighed a couple of tons.
In that little grotto I felt a strange sense of peace and stillness. I could almost hear God saying, The terrible thing done at this site was meant for evil. But I will turn it to good. Have faith. I am here. I fell to my knees in front of the largest cross. Tears came, and I couldnít stop them. I cried like a baby.
Finally I was able to pull myself together. I grabbed my gear and left the strange grotto to go back to search-and-rescue work. But first I spray-painted ďGodís HouseĒ on the atrium ruins.
Digging day after day at Ground Zero was the hardest work Iíd ever done. Often I was so drained I felt I couldnít go on. Thatís when Iíd go to Godís House. Standing there in front of that 20-foot-high steel-beam cross, I always felt my strength and spirit renewed.
Word spread. The cross had the same healing effect on others too. Firemen, police, volunteers, grieving survivors, visiting dignitaries and clergy. They would walk into Godís House, see the cross and fall to their knees crying, like I had. Some people sang, some prayed. Everyone left changed.
There are some who say that the cross I found is nothing more than steel. That it was just plain physics that broke the steel beam into the shape of a cross when it plunged through the roof of building six. But I believe differently.
So does my friend Father Brian Jordan. He was a chaplain at Ground Zero, and is a priest at St. Francis of Assisi in midtown. When the time came for wh...
One of my favorite columns by Erma Bombeck tells of God in the act of creating mothers. She says that on the day God created mothers He had already worked long overtime. And an angel said to Him, "Lord, you sure are spending a lot of time on this one."
The Lord turned & said, "Have you read the specs on this model? She is supposed to be completely washable, but not plastic. She is to have 180 moving parts, all of them replaceable. She is to have a kiss that will heal everything from a broken leg to a broken heart. She is to have a lap that will disappear whenever she stands up. She is to be able to function on black coffee & leftovers. And she is supposed to have six pairs of hands."
"Six pairs of hands," said the angel, "thatís impossible." "Itís not the six pairs of hands that bother me." said the Lord, "Itís the three pairs of eyes. She is supposed to have one pair that sees through closed doors so that whenever she says, `What are you kids doing in there?í she already knows what theyíre doing in there."
"She has another pair in the back of her head to see all the things she is not supposed to see but must see. And then she has one pair right in front that can look at a child that just goofed & communicate love & understanding without saying a word."
"Thatís too much." said the angel, "You canít put that much in one model. Why donít you rest for a while & resume your creating tomorrow?"
"No, I canít," said the Lord. "Iím close to creating someone very much like myself. Iíve already come up with a model who can heal herself when she is sick - who can feed a family of six with one pound of hamburger - & who can persuade a nine year old to take a shower."
Then the angel looked at the model of motherhood a little more closely & said, "Sheís too soft." "Oh, but she is tough," said the Lord. "Youíd be surprised at how much this mother can do."
"Can she think?" asked the angel. "Not only can she think," said the Lord, "but she can reason & compromise & persuade."
Then the angel reached over & touched her cheek. "This one has a leak," he said. "I told you that you couldnít put that much in one model." "Thatís not a leak," said the Lord. "Thatís a tear."
"Whatís a tear for?" asked the angel. "Well itís for joy, for sadness, for sorrow, for disappointment, for pride." "Youíre a genius," said the angel. And the Lord said, "Oh, but I didnít put it there."
~ Astronaut: "Nearer My God, To Thee"
~ Baker: "I Need Thee Every Hour"
~ Barber: "A Parting Hymn We Sing"
~ Baseball Batter: "Seek Thee First"
~ Builder: "How Firm A Foundation" and "The Church’s One Foundation"
~ Canoeist: "Flow, River, Flow"
~ Carpenter: "The Nail Scarred Hand"
~ Children’s Librarian: "We’ve A Story To Tell"
~ Chiropractor: "Awake My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve"
~ Civil Engineer: "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"
~ Dentist: "Crown Him With Many Crowns"
~ Electrician: "O Joyful Light" and "Send The Light"
~ Fisherman: "Shall We Gather At The River?"
~ Golfer: "There Is A Green Hill Far Away"
~ Gossiper: "Pass It On," "It Is No Secret," and "Oh, For A Thousand Tongues"
~ Historian: "Tell Me The Old, Old Story"
~ IRS: "All To Thee (I Owe)" and "We Give Thee But Thine Own"
~ Jogger: "The Path Of Life"
~ Lifeguard: "Come To The Water"
~ Long-Distance Trucker: "On The Highways And Byways Of Life"
~ Mathematician: "10,000 Times, 10,000 Times"
~ Medical Technician: "Revive Us Again"
~ Mountain Climber: "The Rock That Is Higher Than I"
~ Newlywed: "I Need Thee Every Hour"
~ Obstetrician: "He Is Able To Deliver Thee"
~ Optometrist: "Open Mine Eyes That I Might See" and "When I Can Read My Title Clear"
~ Paratrooper: "Now On Land And Sea Descending"
~ Philosopher: "I Am Thinking Today"
~ Politician: "Standing On The Promises"
~ Real Estate Agent: "I’ve Got A Mansion"
~ Sailboater: "Deep River"
~ Sceptic: "Almost Persuaded"
~ Shopper: "Sweet By And By"
~ Speech Therapist: "He Never Said A Mumbling Word"
~ Steeple Builder: "Lift High The Cross"
~ Stonecutter: "Rock Of Ages"
~ Switchboard Operator: "There’s A Call Comes Ringing"
~ Tailor: "Holy, Holy, Holy"
~ Voice Teacher: "Sing Them Over Again To Me"
~ Watchmaker: "Take Time To Be Holy"
~ Watchman: "Silent Night"
~ Weatherman: "There Shall Be Showers Of Blessings"
Have you ever heard of the woman who hated Mother’s Day? According to the Toronto Star’s website, there was such a woman. If you think the spirit of Mother’s Day has been spoiled by the commercialism of cards, flowers and once-a-year sincerity, you stand united with the woman credited with giving us the annual event.
West Virginian Anna Jarvis was so horrified by the monster she helped create in 1914, she spent most of her later years campaigning to have the second Sunday in May removed from the calendar as the day to honour your mother.
In the end, Jarvis lost the fight. The woman, who was never a mother herself, exhausted her financial resources and ruined her mental health in that fight. She died alone in 1948 in an asylum at the age of 84. Just before her death Jarvis told a local reporter: "I devoted my entire life to Mother’s Day and the racketeers and grafters have taken it over."
"She simply wanted a day to honour and remember mothers, but in her mind it didn’t turn out that way," says William Pollard, an archivist at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., where Jarvis bequeathed her letters and other writings.
In 1914, Jarvis spearheaded a campaign to help persuade U.S. president Woodrow Wilson to set aside May’s second Sunday as a national day for recognition. She orchestrated a letter-writing campaign to Wilson, lobbied influential politicians and clergymen and distributed brochures arguing about the importance of a national day for mothers.
Jarvis’ cause came from admiration for her recently deceased mother, Anna Maria, and others like her who had been an inspiration. But by the early 1920s, she was sickened by the commercial circus she had helped create. She felt the day had nothing to do with celebrating the real achievements of women.
Jarvis spent her latter days crashing floral company conventions to protest and urging card companies to give the money they made from Mother’s Day to the poor. At one Mother’s Day convention where flowers were being sold she was arrested for disturbing the peace. She even launched a lawsuit to stop a Mother’s Day festival from being held. (Story fr. Thestar.com)
For Jarvis, her mother was an inspiration, she wanted to honor her. And I believe it is the same kind of inspiration that drove Isaiah to write, for he sees something in mothers that shows us what God is really like. He wanted his readers to know that God cares, and he knows the power of a word picture and he chooses mothers, to picture for his audience, the kind of God who is totally committed to their welfare.
HARD TIMES FOR HELL
Hell, it would seem, has fallen on rather lean times. It used to be that the vast majority of Christians, regardless of denominational affiliation, believed that Hell was a real place where the wicked and the impenitent go when they died. The very thought of the pains and torments of Hell was enough to scare sinners straight. It used to be that ministers of the Gospel would preach on the horrors of Hell to persuade reprobates to repentance. But not anymore. Most American mainline and so-called Evangelical churches stopped preaching about Hell years ago. Most mainline ministers stopped believing in Hell years before that. Hell made people uncomfortable. Hell was too “old-fashioned.” The topic of Hell was bad for the bottom line—attendance and income. Hell damaged people’s self-esteem. Hell has been retained in our modern lexicon as a convenient curse word, and as a metaphoric ...
I think of Eric Liddell. The movie Chariots of Fire depicts how his sister Jenny tried to persuade Eric to give up his running, and go to China with her to be a missionary. He said, "No, God has made me fast and called me to run." It would have been wrong at that point to be a missionary. Of course, Liddell had other opportunities to take up the cross. At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, he would choose to forfeit his chance to win a medal in the 200 meter dash, something he very much wanted to do, because he believed the Lord did not want him to race on Sunday. Then a number of years later, he would take up the cross quite literally and go to China as a missionary where he would later be killed by the Japanese.
Hitler imprisoned a German pastor, Martin Niemoeller, for eight years. He spent some time in prisons and concentration camps, including Dachau. Hitler realised that if Niemoeller, a First World War hero, could be persuaded to join his cause then much opposition would collapse, so he sent a former friend of Niemoeller to visit him, a friend who now supported the Nazis. Seeing Niemoeller in his cell, the one time friend is reported as saying, "Martin, Martin! Why are you here?" To which he received from Niemoeller the response, "My friend! Why are you not here?"